Bangladesh: Bloggers Arrested While Protesting Against Energy Deal

Many netizens in Bangladesh are raging with anger as for the first time in the country bloggers and online activists among other protesters were arrested while striking in protest of a recent Production Sharing Contract (PSC) between the Bangladesh government and United States energy giant ConocoPhillips for deep sea gas exploration.

Clashes between police and protesters erupted during the 6 hours general strike called by National Committee on Protection of Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports against the offshore gas deal between the government and ConocoPhillips. Image by Suvra Kanti Das. Copyright Demotix. July 3, 2011.

Today’s half day long strike called by National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports (NCPOGMR), a left-leaning citizens’ group, had disrupted the daily life of the capital Dhaka as most shops, businesses and schools were closed and very few vehicles were on the roads. Police had beaten many protesters mercilessly and arrested them en-mass. Renowned photo journalist and blogger Shahidul Alam updated the situation whole day (accompanied with pictures) in his blog:

Eyewitness report from Nasrin Siraj:

Anu Muhammad, professor of economics of Jahangirnagar University and member secretary of National Committee to protect oil-gas-mineral resources, power and port is arrested from Paltan today (3 July) at 6:53 a.m. While he was walking towards the office of Communist Party of Bangladesh to join the other activists of National Committee for strike campaign, at least 40 anti riot police came forward, grabbed him and took him away in a prisoner’s van. During the arrest he was silent. [..]

Today, from the very morning police started arresting activists of the National Committee. First, at 5:45 a.m leader of Student Union of Jahangirnagar University was arrested from Paltan. All the central offices of left political parties in Topkhana Road and Paltan were surrounded by police from the early morning. Almost all the central leaders of the National Committee are under police custody now.

Breaking News: Nasrin Siraj has since been arrested.

Bangladeshi bloggers had been part of the protest against the energy deal online and offline. A number of bloggers have rallied for the strike yesterday which can be seen in this video. OnnoMonosko Sharat posts pictures of the bloggers protest and writes:

The bloggers arrived in numbers in the afternoon. Nobody paid them, nor fed them. They came by themselves, rallied, showed support. There are 100 virtual bloggers behind one blogger present. Some have more followers. Nobody is ahead of the other.. all parallel.

Bloggers rallying for the strike. Image courtesy Sharat Chowdhury.

Blogger and GV Bangla Lingua translator Kowshik updated us on today’s strike in his blog at Somewhereinblog.net [bn]:

I hope you know that the popular Bangla blog Dinmazur is authored by three young engineers and one of them is Anupam Saikat Shanto. His analytical writings on oil and gas reserves have provided an eye-opener for many of us. A while ago this blogger was arrested while protesting against the unjust deal with ConocoPhillips. Now he is inside the Shahbag police station.

A protester inside a prison van. Image by Suvra Kanti Das. Copyright Demotix. July 3, 2011.

This is the first time in the history of Bangla blogosphere a blogger has been arrested. We strongly protest the confinement of Shanto. You cannot stop the protests by arresting one Shanto – Bangla blogosphere is very resourceful now – almost everyone is vocal about this repression and the selling out of national interest.

A local TV channel reported that 24 bloggers were arrested in the day, 23 of them had been released so far. There had been rumors that charges of sedition will be brought against the arrested protesters. During the day individual reports of bloggers/activists being arrested occupied different blogging platforms. More bloggers like Ayon at Choturmatrik posted eyewitness reports with photos.

An online poster demanding release of Dinmazur (Shanto). Image courtesy Kowshik.

The campaign against the deal of ConocoPhillips has provided a new dimension to the ongoing activism of the online communities of the country. Many say that bloggers spend idle time in front of monitors. But proving them wrong bloggers have shown that they can also engage offline. We hope that this protest will spread to the world and we will have more support.

The ruling party and the opposition both are prone to satisfying their colonial and foreign lords. The bloggers should expose the true faces of these leaders and guide the nation towards the right path.

Vaskar at Amra Bandhu echoes same sentiments:

Today’s strike is a warning to the power monger leaders of Awami League and BNP (editors note: the ruling party and the opposition)

Mahfuz Jewel at Unmochon blogging platform sees hope in these protests:

I was in fever but was on the ground in Paltan during the half day strike. When Hartal (strike) ended I felt that the pain of the whole nation sat on my head. My eyes were blurred, but I saw hope with those blurred eyes. The people have risen. The patriots have risen. The conscience of the nation is awake. The brave youths are marching forward.

You can find a compilation of blog posts [bn] on this debate posted by Haseeb.

Update by Vaskar: Dinmozur has been released.

Re-published from GlobalVoices under the Creative Commons License.

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4 comments on “Bangladesh: Bloggers Arrested While Protesting Against Energy Deal
  1. MBI Munshi says:

    I wonder if these Bangladesh bloggers are protesting against transit also. I guess not. They love India and hate the Americans …….

  2. MBI Munshi I do not agree with your point. I am one of those Bloggers who organize the event and I took the 2nd picture credited in my pen name sharat chowdhury. I can assure you that Bangladeshi bloggers are protesting against transit. And they are vocal outspoken activist as well. So its better not to go for any stereotype yet.

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